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Governors, Politics and The Colonial Office

Public Policy in Hong Kong, 1918?8

Gavin Ure

Publication Year: 2012

This book explores the making of public policy for Hong Kong between 1918 and 1958. During much of this period, the Hong Kong government had limited policy-making capabilities. Many new policies followed initiatives either from the Colonial Office or from politicians in Hong Kong. This book examines the balance of political power influencing how such decisions were reached and who wielded the most influence—the Hong Kong or British governments or the politicians. Gradually, the Hong Kong government, through implementing new policies, improved its own policy-making capabilities and gained the ability to exercise greater autonomy. The policy areas covered by this book include the implementation of rent controls in 1922, the management of Hong Kong’s currency from 1929 to 1936, the resolution of the financial dispute over matters arising from World War II, the origins of Hong Kong’s public housing and permanent squatter resettlement policies, negotiations over Hong Kong’s contribution to its defence costs and the background to the granting of formal financial autonomy in 1958. Governors, Politics and the Colonial Office will be of interest to historians and political scientists, and to anyone with a general interest in the social, economic and political development of Hong Kong.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Series: Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The sixteenth book in the Royal Asiatic Society’s Hong Kong Study Series traces the development of political and constitutional conventions, rules that augment or diminish the power of various offices and actors, against a wider backdrop, including the evolution of Hong Kong society and the ebb and fl ow of power between: the Colonial Office; the...

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pp. ix-x

I would like to acknowledge the help and assistance I have received from a wide range of people and institutions.
I would firstly like to thank the staff of the Hong Kong Public Records Office at Kwun Tong, especially Mr Bernard Hui and his colleagues, for their unfailing helpfulness and assistance. I would also like to thank the staff at the National Archives at Kew, London and the staff...

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1: Introduction

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pp. 1-12

Who made policy in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong? Was it Hong Kong’s Governor and his senior civil servants? Or was it the British government through the Secretary of State for the Colonies (hereinafter the “Secretary of State”) and Colonial Office officials? How much influence did leading locally domiciled Chinese, Portuguese and Indian...

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2: Governors, Cadets, Unofficials and the Colonial Office

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pp. 13-26

The Hong Kong government was a bureaucracy. Its members, Hong Kong’s civil servants, formed part of a hierarchical organisation. Many of them made a full career in government service. They included professionals who worked in one department or a range of departments and generalists who were posted to different departments to administer and lead them. They were all answerable to the Governor who...

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3: The Origins of Policy, 1917–30

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pp. 27-44

The 1920s saw increasing pressures for social change in Hong Kong. These pushed and nudged government towards increasing its reach by adopting new legislation. This was not change led or embraced wholeheartedly by a progressive government; rather, it was change taken hesitantly by a sometimes reluctant one. Tentative initial steps brought slow...

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4: Britain's Influence over Hong Kong's Policy, 1929-41

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pp. 45-66

Pressure for change accelerated towards the end of the 1930s. Change was still a slow and tentative process. Hong Kong’s society and economy continued to grow and develop. Its population increased from 850,000 in 1931 to an estimated 1.64 million in 1941, boosted by the estimated 750,000 refugees who entered Hong Kong between 1937 and 1939...

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5: Autonomy and the Threat to Sovereignty

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pp. 67-86

The British Crown Colony of Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese army on Christmas Day 1941. British civil government was restored on 1 May 1946 in a form very similar to that of the pre-1941 government. So were many of its policies and personnel. This was not what the Colonial Offi ce had envisaged in 1942. It had concluded then that a restored...

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6: Income Tax and Treasury Control

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pp. 87-110

The need to win support from politicians is an integral part of a democratic system. In the closed political world of post-1945 Hong Kong, however, this kind of support might have been thought barely necessary. It has already been seen how malleable local views could be or how a Secretary of State could even disregard them. It has also been shown how..

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7: Constitutional Reform and Its Demise

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pp. 111-134

In May 1946, on his return to Hong Kong, Young stated publicly that it was British and Hong Kong government policy to introduce changes to allow “the inhabitants of the territory ... a fuller and more responsible share in the management of their own affairs”.1 Six years later, the Secretary of State announced the time was “inopportune” for major...

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8: Post-war Housing Policy and the British Government

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pp. 135-162

The exasperation and frustration in Creech-Jones’ remarks was palpable. He had been asked about Hong Kong’s housing policy by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Colonial Office official responsible for Hong Kong had told him, perhaps not very tactfully, that Hong Kong’s policy was to leave housing to the private sector. For Creech- Jones this only “confirm[ed] what the Archbishop told me”, although...

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9: Squatter Resettlement

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pp. 163-190

The Shek Kip Mei fire on Christmas Day 1953 left upwards of 60,000 people homeless. Four months later, a decision had been taken to resettle them into permanent multi-storey accommodation provided at public expense. Within a year, it had become government policy to rehouse all cleared squatters in this manner. This marked a major shift...

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10: Financial Autonomy

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pp. 191-216

Britain’s formal granting of financial autonomy to Hong Kong in 1958 had the air of an important turning point in relations between the two governments. Officials in both governments knew, however, that Hong Kong had been exercising de facto financial autonomy for several years beforehand and that the Colonial Office had done nothing to stop it...

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11: Conclusions

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pp. 217-228

There was no clear linear progression in the development of the Hong Kong government’s autonomy. There were too many variables for this to have happened. There were moments when it was able to exercise a degree, even a high degree of autonomy, and others when it was not. Much depended on the circumstances of the time, the political pressure...


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pp. 229-278


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pp. 279-286


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pp. 287-302

E-ISBN-13: 9789882208834
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888083947

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies